Mary Ann Ellis

I depend on the Weather Channel for weather predictions, but its fame for prognostication pales compared to Punxsutawney Phil’s and even Georgia’s groundhog, Beauregard Lee, who’s predicting an early spring for the south.  Phil’s predicting the opposite for the north. When February 2 comes around every year, I scratch my head and wonder about this groundhog business.

Every year on the holiday named for their kind, Phil and Beauregard come out, check for their shadows, and make their predictions. 

Curious about the origin of this custom, I Googled it. It seems that the celebration of Groundhog Day began with Pennsylvania’s earliest settlers. They brought with them the legend of Candlemas Day, which states, “For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day, so far will the snow swirl in May...”  I found the prediction itself, but how the furry little groundhog became involved in this tradition is still a mystery—especially down here in the south.

Nonetheless, this year the notable Pennsylvania groundhog predicted six more weeks of cold weather, but his range could hardly include us Baxley folk.  We sit down here many a mile from his snowy Pennsylvania home.  As a matter of fact, as I sit here on February 2 in mid seventy-degree weather, I doubt Phil’s ability to make predictions for us.  It doesn’t feel like six more minutes of winter, much less six more weeks. Woodchucks (Marmota monax) are members of the rodent family Sciuridae that can be found from the Piedmont to the

North Georgia mountains. Methinks a more deeply southern creature would better do our forecasting. 

I’ve put some time into thinking of possible southern counterparts, but finding one was not quite as easy as you might think. First, my mind went to the ‘possum, but that noble animal has all kinds of problems merely crossing the road. Too often it fails. It doesn’t need the added stress of predicting the weather. The two problems together might bring about its extinction, and I don’t want that kind of responsibility on my head.

Then there’s the beloved alligator but approaching this southern creature for a weather consultation is a bit dangerous. I quickly dismissed both the skunk and the bobcat for obvious reasons. And then the solution came, a true epiphany, and I wondered why it took me so long to see it.

The armadillo, which probably has as much ability to predict the weather as your average groundhog, is perfect for the job.  Armadillos live in burrows too, but armadillos don’t hibernate.  They could be on duty year-round, and they are so plentiful that every person in the county could have his own personal weather predictor somewhere out back.  Furthermore, they do a much better job of crossing the road than the ‘possums. Rarely do they die accomplishing that task.

Imagine the advantages.  With my own personal weather prognosticator in my back yard, I’d have no problem figuring out what to wear every morning.  I could check out AA (the Appling Armadillo) every morning, and if his shell were wet, I’d put on my raincoat.  If it were cold to the touch, I’d pull out a sweater. Ice on the shell would indicate the need for a coat, gloves, and hat. The Altamaha Armadillo is the perfect solution.

I don’t know what all this foolishness about seeing shadows has to do with weather anyway, but an armadillo shadow should be just as good as a groundhog’s. 

Don’t worry about AA’s accuracy. The national Climatic Data Center reported that Phil’s overall prediction accuracy rate is about thirty-nine per cent, which is about the same as the Weather Channel’s on a good day. On the other hand, Phil’s fan club swears him to be accurate eighty per cent of the time. I have no concerns there because I do know that we southerners can hold our own with the Yankees any day of the week when it comes to telling tall tales or outright lies.

Georgia was one of the original thirteen colonies, and as such we boast of a rich history. I fail to understand why none of our illustrious ancestors thought already to bring such a rich weather tradition to Georgia, but alas, we cannot go back and change the past. We must look to the future. Having lived in the shadow of our northern neighbors long enough, we must take our destiny in our own hands and start our own tradition. We can prevent this deficit for our children and grandchildren. Don’t be surprised when AA starts to show up as a fabled hero across the country. He could get his own postal stamp. The possibilities are infinite. Who knows? Move over, Phil. Here comes Altamaha Armadillo.